The final installment of Letters from London, but not the end of my travel adventures…
I never thought I’d say this, but I’m really looking forward to leaving England and being with you in Singapore. The magic is finally starting to wear off. While I still enjoy the majesty of coming into a house and hanging your raincoat up on a rack, the warmth of a hearthfire, the pounds and the accents and the policemen with bobby hats… It’s gone from a magically elating experience to a rather mundane, everyday life sort of one. I guess I’m finally used to it so I’m not overwhelmed with fascination and delight anymore. And once the wonder diminishes, you’re left with an ordinary life that you have to make the most of. And that life is a little disenchanting too – the weather, the crowds, the travel time, the collective attitude of London where everyone keeps their heads down and gets on with their business as quick as they can… I miss the open spaces of Australia, the bright sun and the early days, the driving, my friends at training, and you most of all. I guess I’m homesick. I feel sorry for Eugene, who wishes more than anything else for the ability to drive before he forgets how. (I encouraged him to hire a car and go on a road trip, to his great delight.)
I’ve also been struggling a bit mentally today. I got stuck early on in a cycle of worrying about meaningful work and fearing boredom in my future. It was eating me up and tearing me apart as I fed more and more into the cycle, and saying my lines in my head helped a little but not a lot. Instead I just walked out the door to go have a good time in England, and I’m so glad I did. Once I got out of my head, I started appreciating the wonder of hearing (and watching) a robin sing, doing kung fu in a tennis court (because the park was too muddy, and after my mountain adventures I’ve had quite enough of mud) and just enjoying being alive. It was a wonderful reminder that all suffering is born in the mind, and that most of it is unnecessary.
I made my way to the museum of natural history, a very old building full of remarkable specimens of the world. The first discovered dinosaur teeth, Neanderthal skull, meteorite, collections of bones from dodos and dinosaurs, fossils, gemstones (what an exhibit- you have to come here!), Darwin’s handwriting on a pigeon skeleton, a magnificently constructed brachiosaurus skeleton… And I’ve been in less than half of the building!
The way in was a bit of a trial though. There was a queue of about an hour to enter the building, but I lined up like everyone else. After about 40 minutes though, a group of four youths cut in front of us. The man in front of me demanded they go to the back of the line, so they shifted back a few places until they were behind me. They mocked him because the guards didn’t want to trouble themselves by sending them to the back. I was feeling happy and charitable so I didn’t mind, and when the youngest (13?) of them said “How do you like them apples?” I turned around and laughed with them.
We got chatting and they identified themselves as gypsies who sounded Irish but lived in England in a hotel. They didn’t work or study, but rather travelled around. I asked quite obliviously how they could afford to fund this, and they identified some celebrity as a relation and then burst out laughing admitting it was a lie. I didn’t really get a straight answer, and the looks they gave me suggested they robbed/scammed people for money. Eugene’s encountered quite a few gypsies so far, and I felt most uncomfortable when I turned much back to them and they nudged my bag once or twice. After the apples jibe, it turned out they weren’t very pleasant company and enjoyed mocking and fooling the guards into telling them about the place they had jumped the queue for. When we finally enterred the building we split up, but while I was queuing to see the main dinosaur exhibit they found me again and started taking photos with me. When I realised the queue was another hour, I slipped out of line when they weren’t looking rather than enduring their company any longer. I’ve been a bit worried I’ll bump into them again, but fear shouldn’t stop me from enjoying myself so I’ve tried to move on. I rather do wish that such quarrelsome people didn’t exist, but I also believe it’s good to be challenged and brought out of your comfort zone. Perhaps there was a lesson I could have learned from my exposure to them.
I love you. While the museum is super busy, I’ve found a large cafe/picnic area underground which is hardly being used. It’s so nice to get a break from the crowds.
After I sent that last email, I spent another hour or two in the museum of natural history. I’d seen the treasures, the Vault (and gemstones), human evolution and a few fossils, but I’d barely seen a quarter of the museum. I queued for half an hour to see the dinosaurs, which were mostly replicas of skeletons. I squared off with an animatronic t-rex, which made my heart race but I survived without incident (I think the ghost walk has made me rather fearless), and I moved on to an exhibit with a giant blue whale suspended from the ceiling. The skeletons of various kinds of whales and models of dolphins, narwhals and other sea-mammals also hung from the ceiling. For some reason I felt tremendously sad, as if I were standing in a room of death. I looked around awhile, but was soon unnerved by the taxidermied bodies of various animals seemingly pressing against the glass to loom over me.
I left rather hurriedly to get home and get changed for a shaolin kung fu class I had found. Having been unable to attend their class last time due to spending too much time in the Winter Wonderland, I was keen not to miss it a second time. I was in such a hurry to get there that I skipped dinner (though I hurriedly ate a falafel on the way) and managed to find my way there ten minutes before class started. Alas, the great red gates were closed. I guessed that they had been shut some time and no one had updated the website. I had tried calling them throughout the day to confirm it would have been okay for me to join them, but no one answered and I finally understood why. All of that excitement and enthusiasm and adrenaline left my body all at once and I struggled not to be crestfallen.
I decided rather spontaneously that I would not let the evening be ruined, and I found my way to Namco Bandai Fun Station (Namco Station for short) – a three floor arcade. There, I promised myself I would spend a maximum of £10, and to my surprise, I did. I honed my dragon punch technique (despite the sign saying “No run-ups please” – a flying punch isn’t a running punch, right?), played a reflex game where you had to hit flashing lights (so much fun! I nearly went to Madame Tussaud’s to play the one they have there!), went through a laser maze (get to points A, B and C in the fastest possible time without triggering the shining green lasers. The dark smoky room with Mission Impossible music was ridiculously fun, as well as expensive. I triggered six lasers as I swept, ducked and dive-rolled through the tiny maze) and blew the rest of my money on Terminator Salvation, an excellent machine-gun game. In short, it was (rather sadly) a highlight of the trip.
I slept in very late the next day, until past 10am (nearly 12 hours of sleep). I organised breakfast for Eugene and I (he was working at reception for twelve hours so other people brought him food) and then hastily got ready for a new kung fu class I found. This school taught Hung Gar, the style that earth-bending is based on, so I was really excited. Despite leaving an hour before class started, I got there late – travel just takes so long in London because everything is so spread out. I ran the last few hundred metres to find the place, and when I finally got there it appeared closed. I banged on the door, ready to apologise for interrupting the class, and called the number on a nearby poster. It turned out that they too had closed for Christmas, and they would not reopen for another few days. I tried not to let the disappointment wound me, but this was the third class I’d missed. With a heavy heart, I boarded the train to make the long journey back.
On the way though, I heard an announcement say “Exit here for the British Museum”. I spontaneously got off, as I had been contemplating seeing the Museum as one of my final things to do in London. I wandered around quite happily, deeply interested in the evolution and nuances of Japanese culture, and casually interested I’m everything else the museum held.
I’m currently in an Italian restaurant (Bella Roma) across the road, but I’ll be returning in a moment to see the exhibits on medieval Europe and India. When I get back to Eugene’s place, I plan to do my own training in my room (it will probably be too dark to train outside), go for a Jack the Ripper tour of Hyde Park (how fearless I’ve grown!), and then watch a movie with Eugene in the theatre room. It looks to be a late night and early start, with a 7am departure to the airport. I’m sure I’ll sleep on the plane though.
I left when the museum closed, but missed my train stop because I was too busy reading AFFC. Consequently it took 25m longer to get back, and I didn’t especially feel like a stroll in Hyde Park in the dark in my track pants.
Instead, I resolved to do my own training since I couldn’t find a club to do it with. Gavin’s (the guy whose room is being loaned to me) room is tiny, but there was a gap of about 1-by-3 metres between his bed and desk, and that was enough room to do plenty of calisthenic exercises. I started with push-ups (37 on my knuckles, 3 on my palms), the four minute sprinting/leg-swapping exercise Bert taught me, dips (30), ab-blasters (I convinced myself to do just one, then once I had begun I managed to keep going for the full six), followed by 50 “little kicks” (which I had pardoned myself from doing since I completed the ab-blasters, but I did them anyway) and then 30 one-legged squats (15 with each leg). Between each I only allowed myself a few seconds of rest, so it was quite an intensely draining burst of exercise. I felt very sick and shaky afterwards, unable to eat for… well, it’s been about 45 minutes and I’m still not hungry. But afterwards, as I was showering, I was surprised to see how healthy and beautiful my body looked with my lean torso and sculpted muscles. I thought I’d put on a stack of weight and lost a lot of fitness, so it was good to see that my body hadn’t changed too much during this period of indulgence.
Thanks for listening to me ramble. I know it’s egotistic to take pride in something as unimportant as my body, but I wanted someone to know anyway. I’m a little undecided whether or not to post this to my blog – it’s an honest expression of how I’m feeling right now, but it is quite egotistic… What are your thoughts?
Anyway, after a quick shower (cold to start with, but the thermostat defaults to hot and it soon felt like I’d overheat and pass out), Imanaged to force myself to Kathmandu to pick up some dinner. As well as the complimentary puppadum, I also ordered some sliced mango cheeks to restore my blood sugar (because I was shaking so much). I’ve come to the realisation that I push myself way harder when I train by myself than when I train under a teacher because I perpetuate delusions around how much I actually can endure and why stopping to rest is promoting weakness. While I think it helps me work harder, it’s quite inconvenient to feel so sick afterwards. I guess I’ve got a long way to go in terms of letting go of ego, pride and delusion.
… Oh! And one more thing I wanted to mention was that Kathmandu gave me a 10% discount. How lovely! I paid with a £20 note and left the change on the platter, which was about 8% of the bill, so I think we both won.
Whoops! Sent that email a little early. I looked up and saw that, at 8:15 in the morning, the sun was just peaking the horizon. Little beams of pure golden sun flashed out from between the buildings. It was beautiful.
Eugene and I had not time to watch that movie (whose name I keep forgetting), but we did watch the very last episode of Survivorman, which we’d been saving so long we forgot about it. Les used a lighter to make fire when his vine snapped (disappointing!) and when he got very sick from drinking bad water, he bailed two days early. I empathise, but it wasn’t the strongest show for the series to end on.
All right, in the airport. Gotta go! Love you babe. Not sure when I’ll have reception/internet, but perhaps I’ll see you in Singapore when you arrive! I love you!
I’m at Kuala Lumpur. It’s about 1am London time, or 9am Perth/KL time, and I’m pretty ridiculous exhausted. I only slept for half an hour on the plane as it was taking off and spent the rest of the time enthralled in watching Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief (satisfying, and not overly cheesy), Ice Age: Continental Drift (teenaged Peaches and her cute mole-friend! We must see this together), playing ResiRev (to my surprise, I played through most of the bonus missions a second time to try and max out my high scores. I had long ago decided that it wasn’t worth the time and effort, but it seems I was wrong) and watching Real Steel (which I’m somewhat perplexed to declare was amazing. Something about boxing, Hugh Jackman and giant robots just did it for me). I also caught a quick episode of Stan Lee’s show “Superhumans”, where his assistant travels around the world finding remarkable (even super-powered) human beings. The case that most interested me was a “martial arts master” who could knock people out without touching them by focussing his qi. It was appalling, but his students genuinely believed in it and thus fed into the deception that allowed them to drop their own blood pressure until they passed out at his suggestion. When he tried it on the presenter, nothing happened. What a terrible reputation he’s giving martial artists!
In short, it was a pleasant flight that seemed to pass quickly. Definitely have to remember to pre-book a vegetarian meal and to check-in online to bypass the 45 minute queue. You might like to consider doing the same. A couple (four?) of hours before your flight leaves, log onto the website and check in to save time and to make sure the plane knows you’re coming in case you run late.
Alas, when I got off the plane, I had some trouble getting my shoes on. They had literally changed shape, and had large moulds in then in the arches and balls of my feet. I can think of only one reason: perhaps as I was cleaning the mud off them, some water got trapped between the waterproof layers. The change in air pressure warped the molecules and distorted the shape. At first it was terribly uncomfortableto walk, but then I decided to see it as a free massage.After a while, the mounds smoothed themselves out though not perfectly so – perhaps that will come in time.
Also! I learned about g-force from “Superhumans”. When a plane takes off or lands, gravity momentarily doubles. I’ve never realised that’s what I was feeling before, but I tried lifting my arms just before we touched down and they only went half as high as I was expecting. So satisfying! I’d love to recreate that feeling constantly to train in, like Goku on King Kai’s planet (which has ten tines Earth’s gravity).
I am so tired that I keep misspelling simple words and have practically no logical progression of ideas. But I won’t sleep until I’ve checked in, for fear of being robbed in my sleep!
I’m using KLIA’s free wi-fi.
The humidity here is at once comforting and irritating. I wonder how you’ll respond to it.
I miss you.